By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer
The Ishibashi family, who farmed in the Palos Verdes area for over a century, was honored Tuesday by the Rancho Palos Verdes City Council for its “innumerable contributions” to the local community.
The family announced last month that it was selling its five-acre ranch in the Portuguese Bend area of Rancho Palos Verdes. The public was invited to a celebration of the Ishibashis’ legacy at the property on July 16.
Mayor Thomas Long presented a proclamation to the family during a council meeting at Fred Hesse Community Park. Also present were Mayor Pro Tem Anthony Misetich and Councilmembers Brian Campbell and Douglas Stern. Councilmember Stefan Wolowicz participated by phone from a lodge in Denali National Park in Alaska.
After brothers Kumekichi and Tomizo Ishibashi arrived in 1910 and leased land on the peninsula for $10 an acre, “the Ishibashis were one of the celebrated 40 families of Japanese Americans who successfully farmed over 1,900 acres using dry farming techniques to maximize their yields,” Long said. “After the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, the Ishibashis were one of only six families to return to the peninsula to farm.”
Tomizo passed away in 1966. The legacy was continued by, among others, James and Annie Ishibashi, son and daughter-in-law of Tomizo; their daughter, Yvonne Yamashita; their son, Richard Ishibashi; and his wife, Sande. The slogan painted on the side of Annie’s Stand, as their business near Abalone Cove Shoreline Park came to be known, was “Deliciously yours.”
Annie passed away in 1992 at age 67; James, also known as “Kat” (short for Katsumi), in 2002 at age 83; and his brother Thomas, who sold produce at a stand by Torrance Airport, on May 20 at age 82.
“The Ishibashi family and the literal fruits of their labor have been an integral part and enduring part of peninsula life for generations,” Long said. “For decades, people took trips to Annie’s flower stand and it promised a treat for the eyes, nose and mouth, an experience that thousands of Palos Verdes and South Bay residents looked forward to eagerly.
“The family’s dedication, perseverance and abiding respect for the land have been evident in every snap pea, avocado and strawberry that they grew. The family motto aptly sums up their work ethic and approach to life: Life’s obstacles can be overcome by earnest endeavor and patient endurance.”
Family members accepting the proclamation were Sande Ishibashi; Naomi Hamachi, James’ and Thomas’ sister; and Kiyo Kitamura, Annie’s sister.
“On behalf of the Kitamura and Ishibashi families, we would like to thank Mayor Tom Long and the RPV City Council for honoring the late Annie and James Ishibashi,” said Sande Ishibashi. “If they were here today they would be very happy for this recognition. And I’m very happy right now.”
Hamachi, who introduced herself as “the youngest sibling,” said, “James lived a great life farming and my older brother Ichiro (who died in 1999) also was a farmer, and we had Tom, who just recently passed away. I’m sorry to say he was the last of the many farmers in this particular area.
“He was always proud of his stand and his fresh vegetables, and for the City Council members today, I brought a few to share with all of you — the last crop of corn to be raised at the Torrance Airport. So the sweetness of the corn and the strawberries and the flowers are going by as we all kind of have to say goodbye to everything, I guess. It’s sad, it’s very sad.”
Ishibashi said in an interview that about 200 people came to the public celebration last month, and that she was surprised by the turnout. “They were very well known and very well liked, but I had no idea that people still cared and thought about them, because it’s been a while since Annie and James passed.”
The event was also a tribute to her husband Richard, who passed away last year at age 63, and his sister, Yvonne, who is also deceased.
Ishibashi recalled that her husband preferred to do the cooking for the family when they were working at the stand, selling flowers and vegetables. They always had to work on holidays, she added.
Regarding the ranch, built in 1952 and overlooking the ocean, Hamachi said, “It’s on the market, and I’m handling the sale … We hope that the buyer will continue to keep it in its original condition, but one never knows.”